The extreme anti-choice 'Youth Defence' group was set up in 1992 by the Mac Mhatuna family in the wake of X case. Youth Defence appeared on the streets as a fully formed organisation with an office and glossy posters and leaflets. In the space of a few months they organised two large marches in Dublin city centre - in June and October 1992. The June march became notorious for the front page picture in the Irish Times of a large group of men hired as 'security' for the march. [Irish Times 8.6.92]
YD adopted a policy of being noisy, provocative and controversial for the purpose of getting media attention. These tactics included intimidation of progressive groups. The group attempted to attack pro-choice activists from the Dublin Abortion Information Campaign [DAIC] at the DAIC weekly leafleting event at the GPO in 1992. Some minor scuffles took place, which resulted in YD retreating in search of softer targets.
23rd October 1992 - The Democratic Left branch in TCD organised a picket of the Youth Defence offices, then located over the Pipers House pub on Thomas Street. As soon as the 'picket' started a few men drinking in the pub, supporters and friends of YD, bailed out with pool cues and started lashing out at the marchers. A young photographer from 'The Star' newspaper was knocked unconscious. A few protesters were beaten around the heads. Youth Defence members stood back and smirked at the people injured.
6th July 1994 - YD and DAIC both held pickets on the Dail at the same time. Afterwards the DAIC group went to have coffee in Buswells. YD came into the hotel and threw cups, etc. around. The Gardai arrived and put both groups out into the street, where scuffles continued for some time. The Gardai intercepted a Youth Defence van containing a number of hurleys, which were being brought to the scene.
In neither of the above cases were charges taken against YD, for what were clearly unprovoked assaults on peaceful protests. However court cases did take place in relation to YD pickets on the family homes and offices of politicians they regarded as 'pro-abortion'. A number of YD members were convicted in 1995 for picketing the office of Brendan Howlin, then Health Minister, in Wexford.
November 1997 - YD dragged the raped 13 year old in the 'C' case though the courts in an attempt to prevent her exercising her legal right to have an abortion in Britain.
In 1998 YD adopted a tactic of directly targeting family planning clinics, using the pretext that these health care providers were 'abortion referral clinics'. The tactics used have been directly copied from Operation Rescue and other extremist groups in the United States. Occupations and pickets of both the IFPA and Marie Stopes clinics in Dublin have become regular events.
16th February 1998 - 12 Youth Defence members occupied the Marie Stopes Reproductive Choices clinic on Blessington Street. An elderly staff member was physically assaulted.
16th May 1998 - A Youth Defence picket of the Adelaide hospital turned into a mini-riot when their activists fought with Gardai. YD members roared slogans through megaphones despite being told that an elderly woman was on the point of death in the hospital. In April 1999 eight leading members of YD were convicted and fined for obstructing Gardai and assault.
6th March 1999 - A Youth Defence conference was held in the Royal Dublin Hotel. Afterwards several hundred activists besieged and occupied the IFPA clinic on Cathal Brugha Street. The group included 40 Americans led by Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Washington DC group 'Christian Defense Coalition'. Rev. Mahoney is also in Dublin this weekend for the International Youth Defence Conference. In March IFPA staff were assaulted and stalked by members of Youth Defence. An injunction was taken out by the IFPA to prevent any further attacks. YD continued to picket the IFPA clinic and also plastered the city with 'anonymous' posters claiming that Tony O Brien, director of the IFPA, 'Exports Irish Babies for Slaughter'. The poster included a picture of Tony O Brien. This photograph was taken by YD on the day of the occupation.
July / August 1999 - The Ulster Pregnancy Advisory Service in Belfast announced that it was closing down as a result of the intimidation and pickets placed on it's members by the 'Precious Life' group. An arson attack and burglary had also taken placed at the UPAA office. Precious Life, based in Ballymena, is the Northern branch of Youth Defence. They have been running an ongoing campaign to close down the Belfast based Family Planning Association and the Brook Centre.